EXCLUSIVE: JJ Valaya on JJV. Kapurthala, Rashmika Mandanna's outfit at Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI and more

Our conversation with the famous couturier JJ Valaya covers topics like JJV, Kapurthala's design language, Karigars, and too much learn-able information.

Updated on May 29, 2023  |  03:29 PM IST |  336.8K
JJ Valaya, celebrity style, lakme fashion week, fashion,
EXCLUSIVE: JJ Valaya on JJV. Kapurthala, Rashmika Mandanna's outfit at Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI and more

It's not just another Monday, it's the Oscars Monday. But, we can only talk about it if we're mentally done with Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI presentations. We do not really hate to soak in self-pity (sometimes) but this working Saturday was complaint-free from our side. Fashion is the reason and the show isn't forever, sadly. On Day 3 designers opted for shine but couturier JJ Valaya's bridge-to-luxury brand JJV.Kapurthala's designs were strikingly beyond just one detail: majestic galore of prints and embroideries were traditionalised, modernised and finally served flawlessly. 

May the "oohs" roll in as you read our one-on-one conversation to keep a tab on JJ Valaya's new collection, the current scene of occasion wear, how he has been "greening" his creations, and get to the depths of how he worked on Rashmika Mandanna's show-stopping exquisite saree and blouse. 

JJ Valaya chats about Rashmika Mandanna’s saree, JJV.Kapurthala’s new beginnings and everything fashion

What is the vision behind JJV.Kapurthala by JJ Valaya ?

JJV.Kapurthala is a brand new bridge-to-luxury line. It was launched only two seasons back. The name sort of gives it away but it is perennially inspired by Kapurthala which is the land of my four fathers. Also known as the Paris of Punjab in the good old days. The prime inspiration comes from the travelogues of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh who was an avid traveller during his time. 

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The idea of doing a bridge-to-luxury line has been on my mind for a while. I always wanted that whilst, in JJ Valaya couture brand, we are known for bridal wear for over three decades and have had the privilege of dressing up perhaps some of the finest brides and grooms across the planet. But, so many more people related and resonated with the brand DNA so I had to create a line which is more accessible, cooler, easier to wear, and you don't have to wait to get married to wear it. It's an occasion wear line. We don't do casual. But, it is highly versatile, very modern and with a large emphasis on prints, and details and with only a garnish of embroideries. 

What design language does JJV. Kapurthala follow?

We are not going to move away from what the brand values are. We have always been a proud Indian brand. I've maintained that if we have to create a mark nationally and internationally, we must remain focused on our roots. But, that doesn't mean we get stuck in a time warp. So, the magic lies in how we can delve into all the history that exists in India. In my case, it's India, the silk route, the spice route, and any place which has a history that one can really appreciate. Then, extract certain portions from there and re-invent them and represent them to today's audience in a completely new way. That's the DNA of the brand. 

It is spread across various silhouettes, including yellow sarees, skirt sets, kurta sets, tunics, kaftans, and for men, of course, jackets, Nehru jackets, bandis, shirts, and kurtas. It's a fair sort of wide range but yet very focused. Then, of course, is a considerably large line of accessories and we've already started the development on that with the first bags coming in this season. But, more to follow and we'll talk about it when it happens. 

JJV.Kapurthala focuses on the travelogues of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala as you mentioned. How do you wish to tell stories through your designs uniquely and differently? 

Yes, they do focus on the travelogues and the nuances of Kapurthala. But, what I do every season is that I take this distinct signature and merge it into the season's collection of JJ Valaya. So, for instance, we're currently doing 'Alma' which is based on Spanish influences. So, input from there and merge it into this sort of collection which gives birth to a completely new language. 

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What are your takeaways from working on this collection? 

The biggest high for me, I keep saying this, is that I have been so fortunate for nearly 32 years now. I've been doing every single day something that I absolutely love doing. Waking up every morning and looking forward to the day of creation to excitedly put together a new collection, product, or something, is fascinating. 

And, with JJV coming in, the journey has become even more enjoyable whilst we're essentially known as couturiers and where I can live my dream and sort of work on the most elaborate outfits, details, embroideries and everything that goes into making courtier what it is. With JJV the energy is completely different. 

So, how do I take the same brand values and now use them in a line simply more accessible which is more modern, contemporary and cooler? So, this is the pleasure that I get. I also get to work with the finest and most luxurious garments with beautiful embroideries, with skill sets which are unparalleled, and with creations which may take up to 6 months to create. But, on the other hand, taking the same DNA and having much more fun and creating a line which is now modern, which can be worn by so many more people other than brides and grooms. 

So, my takeaway from working on JJV is that to me it's perhaps a great leveller where I can juggle between my two loves in fashion besides of course my interior line, Valaya Home, and my photography but in fashion, I get these two very distinct palettes which I can savour. 

Can you name a few of the signature design techniques and patterns that are carried onto this collection?

JJV is a print-strong line. And, that is something we've excelled in for a very long time. We've extracted it and given it a place of its own. So, we do a lot of research and that is the prime base for our n product where we spend a lot of time researching, finding out what was happening many centuries back, what was lost, how we discover it again and how can we present it today in a modern, clean, interesting line. So, we focus a lot on print. 

And, embroideries also because you cannot imagine a Valaya garment without embroideries. We use our embroideries to sort of only garnish the product. So, there will be necklines, and something at the hem, but you won't find a garment which is totally embroidered. Besides this, of course, we experiment a lot with fabric. We use only natural fabrics or sustainable fabrics, so a significant portion of the line is worked using Tencel fabric. 

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I do only luxury and by virtue of doing couture we are anyway sustainable but even if I do a bridge-to-luxury line I want to make sure that it is as sustainable and should be my sort of first and firm steps towards conscious luxury and conscious fashion. So, that is also a focal point. 

In terms of occasion wear, where do you think the current fashion market is at? 

Everybody loves dressing up. I feel that if we make special quality pieces which stand the test of time and one can wear several times then we will be able to make a difference and contribute to creating something credible. So, I think the occasion wear where the market is currently huge in India, only growing testimony is what is happening to the retail industry and how the growth of retail is also showing the evolution of Indian fashion brands. 

Add to it, the fact that there is now a lot of corporate interest in Indian fashion and therefore growth is eminent. So, I think all these factors come together and play a very big role in developing a market which is maturing now and I'm glad that we're there as a part of it. I'm glad that I witnessed it for three decades. I'm glad that my excitement levels of creating what I do today are at the same levels or perhaps even more than what they were when I started. It was a very different India when we started. We are now living in a different India and environment. 

 

From the House of Valaya to JJV.Kapurthala and so much more in between, what are some of your learnings and career points you cannot forget? 

Wow, this is a question that cannot be answered in a few lines. I can assure you that being in an industry for more than three decades and sort of seeing it from its very inception, we were amongst the pioneering lot of designers who started Indian fashion to the way it is evolved and reached today. It's been one hell of a journey, full of ups and downs, and I frankly couldn't have asked for anything else other than the journey I've been through and going through. 

There are very few basics that one needs to follow and you learn them along the way. 

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Always know your core and if you know your core then you need to believe in it. Believing in your core comes from believing in yourself. So, once you know that and you know there is a circle or form of design you resonate with, keep working on that and taking it to the ultimate levels rather than despairing your energies and trying to do everything. Doesn't work. 

Don't try to please everybody. This is a common mistake that a lot of creative people make. A lot of people may think why am I losing out with the rest of the market? The reality is that you will get the market share that is meant to come to you for the simple reason, a bunch of people who are associating with what you do, respect you for that, follow you for that, and then buy you for that. 

When you try to do too many things and look and try to please too many people, you invariably lose your core as well. So, I think that is totally avoidable. 

Then, of course, never rest on your laurels. However big, successful or monied you may become, there are plenty of you snapping at your heels. So keep innovating, keep going, remain humble, and remain grounded. Perhaps that is one of the biggest strengths you can possess which is always being grateful and always knowing that the journey is far over. So, keep working on it.

Tell us about the work of Karigars who've played a vital role in putting your creations for this collection together? What is the legacy you wish to carry forward?

India's craft persons and India's crafts are the very souls of what I do. And, this really goes across the board from weavers to embroiderers to dyers to so many other techniques and of course, we're using them in Valaya Home as well. I think the fact remains that if we as designers don't responsibly take on the role of ensuring that we keep craft relevant and don't let it be taken over completely by technology and modern ways to create craft-based garments if we don't do that, we will lose, perhaps, lose the most precious part of India, any country, any region which has excelled in absolutely breathtaking crafts. 

So, that is of course the core that we need to work on. And, besides that, if I were to speak of a legacy, it would be that "Was I able to contribute in dressing to a significant amount of people, was I able to show them their real India but packaged in a way that they absolutely love wearing those clothes and feeling good about themselves. So, the brand always endures, and people move on, so the focus is to work on the brand's legacy which can be taken forward.

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Can you tell us about Rashmika Mandanna's showstopper outfit? From the mood board to the hours it took to create it? 

I've always believed that clothes of course are extremely important. They've taken someone's heart and soul to be put together. And, it is not just the designer and all the other persons involved. And, eventually, it is the wearer that makes the clothes and I was happy to see Rashmika who I find very promising, extremely talented and very lovely to look at and of course a beautiful person. And, I was very happy that she and what I created was in sync. 

We are known for our shifting leaf chevron pattern and normally one season in black and white. But, for the first time, I put it on gold so this was a new avatar of it. In this case, of course, I did bring in our signature JJ Valaya embroideries onto the blouse in antiquated metals and fine thread work using a lot of high-quality crystals and beads. And, in creating which is something simple yet elaborate, modern and yet rooted in what we're all about. 

Could you name 2 of your favourite collections of all time?

This is an unfair question because I personally work with love on all my collections so I think it will be difficult for me to answer this. Some of the most memorable collections for me would be, my first commercial collection in 1992 after I came out from NIFT. It is always special when you do something which other people are actually going to appreciate and pay you money for possessing so that was special. 

Also, my collection after my sabbatical. From 2017 to 2019 I was on a sabbatical. The collection I put together in 2019 was also special for the simple reason that it followed a phase of my life which was very important, very special and very close to me. 

Rashmika as a showstopper for JJ Valaya

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Do you love Rashmika's attire?

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About The Author

A fashion writer by day and a makeup inspiration by the night, Manjusha is also an ardent animal lover.

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Credits: VIRAL BHAYANI, INSTAGRAM , APH IMAGES,
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